NFL Power Rankings Week 5: Chiefs, Cowboys surging after big wins
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough," states a quote attributed to Albert Einstein.
Safe to assume he was not referring to the NFL standings, but it is applicable to the 2014 season nonetheless. Tampa Bay winning in Pittsburgh? Dallas' defense putting the clamps on Drew Brees? The Eagles scoring only on special teams and defense?
What in the holy Y.A. Tittle is going on here?
Through four weeks of the NFL season, a handful of teams look consistently formidable and a couple have been absolutely horrendous, with a whole bunch clustered in between. Even Einstein would have a tough time sorting through it all.
Sans his assistance, here are the Week 5 Power Rankings:
The defense, and the Bengals' undefeated start, will be tested in the coming months. Up in October are Tom Brady (albeit a struggling Tom Brady), Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and a rematch with Flacco.
Consider it done.
Interesting Denver development through three games, if only because of what went on last season: The Broncos currently have allowed 154 more yards than they've gained. Remember that in 2013, Denver ran up 7,317 yards -- 1,600-plus in front of what opponents gained (5,696).
The last time that Drew Stanton started three games in a row -- a streak he will match Sunday, barring a late change -- came in 2010, when he was a Detroit Lion. The last time he started four games in a row: 2006, as a Michigan State Spartan. Can he maintain his play over the long haul, if the Cardinals need him to do so?
Arguably the most impressive aspect of Philip Rivers' incredible start to 2014? He's lighting it up without almost no semblance of a run game helping him. Ryan Mathews' eventual return from injury will help, but the Chargers are averaging 2.4 yards per carry. Rivers could QB sneak his way to more production.
Trying not to oversell it here, especially since those tip-drill touchdowns probably won't happen all that often. But through four weeks, the Steve Smith signing looks like Baltimore's best pickup since it acquired the Browns.
Kind of sounds like an excuse, but we might allow it given how those O-line issues have turned LeSean McCoy into 2013 Willis McGahee.
In previous seasons when Calvin Johnson was out of the lineup or limited to decoy status, as he was on Sunday due to an ankle injury, the Lions may as well have started a mailbox with a "Gone Fishin', Back Next Week" sign hanging from it at quarterback. The 2014 Lions got the job done anyway, knocking off the Jets -- perhaps the most concrete evidence yet that this season might be different for the long-struggling franchise.
Hopefully, his through-the-roof stats hint that O.C. Pep Hamilton finally has accepted what many people have been saying: that Luck would be best off in an up-tempo offense that features the passing game.
The Cowboys' stunning 3-1 start really boils down to two guys: running back DeMarco Murray and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The former is on pace to shatter all sorts of single-season franchise rushing records; the latter has resurrected a defense that Baylor might have been able to hang 40 points on last season.
Jim Harbaugh's team is now 2-0 after reports that the San Francisco coach is losing the locker room. It happened prior to the 49ers' Week 1 victory in Dallas, and then more rumors of disharmony emerged ahead of Sunday's much-needed triumph over the Eagles.
The Royals are a popular darling pick in the MLB playoffs. And the Chiefs might be a little higher on a few fans' list this week, mainly because few teams have succeeded in making Tom Brady look as sad as he did Monday night.
A Carolina-New Orleans-Chicago-Philadelphia gauntlet awaits later, but only the New Orleans game is away from Lambeau, and there's a bye week midway through.
Now, I'm not telling the Texans how to ensure J.J. Watt the MVP this season, but since they already know that play-action pass to him works ...
The frustrated Patriots have now gone three straight games without hitting 300 total yards on offense. That hasn't happened with Tom Brady at the helm since Weeks 13-16 of the 2003 season, a four-game "slump" that coincided with a 15-game win streak ... and a Super Bowl title.
There has been no point trying to figure out this Chicago team yet. Its roller-coaster tendencies do make an 8-8 finish seem more probable than 11-5, though.
Why throw on second down but not on third? Why put the game on the shoulders of your depleted defense?
Sure, Kirk Cousins was handing out interceptions like Scrooge thew money around after the Ghost of Christmas Future visited him. The Giants still had to take advantage, and they did in a big way. This team might not be much fun to play against the rest of the way.
After announcing that two starting offensive linemen had been placed on injured reserve, head coach Mike Smith said that the Falcons had to adopt a "no-blink mentality." Of course, that advice was mostly directed at QB Matt Ryan, who definitely will be sacked if he loses focus for even a nanosecond behind what's left of his line.
NFL front offices rarely chase restricted free agents, at least not successfully. Could the Browns' score with Andrew Hawkins cause a reevaluation of that approach? The 5-foot-7 receiver leads Cleveland in targets, receptions and receiving yards through three games.
It's not just the defense or offense struggling. It's everyone.
Whatever happened, it worked. Tannehill played one of the better games of his career in a 38-14 win and -- poof! -- the Dolphins are tied for first place in the AFC East.
After losing Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart to injuries in Week 3, the Panthers welcomed DeAngelo Williams back for Week 4 ... and then he got hurt. They never should have built the running back's lockers on top of that ancient Indian burial ground.
Now, if the Vikings could only remember where they left Cordarrelle Patterson.
In case the Bills were having any second thoughts about swapping out EJ Manuel for Kyle Orton at quarterback, a move made possibly at the expense of the team's quarterbacking future, reassurance came Monday night. That's when the Patriots -- the odds-on AFC East favorites -- were manhandled by the Chiefs to drop them to 2-2. The division is wide open, which is why Buffalo is rolling the dice.
How much longer until Ryan decides the Jets are not "getting it done"? They're 1-3 and facing a daunting three-games-in-11 days stretch: at San Diego, vs. Denver, at New England on a Thursday night.
Just when you think they're about to break apart, when the wind blows hard and the sky is black, and when everyone says it can't be done ... Bucs fly together. Wait, that's supposed to be "Ducks fly together." Sorry. Still works here, though.
So, maybe Fisher deserves more time. But it still feels like he could be the next head coach on the chopping block.
Start the timer for 13 weeks -- that is how long Washington has to figure out its plan at quarterback, whether that plan be to turn things back over to Robert Griffin III, let Kirk Cousins work through his issues or toss everything in the trash and start again. The Redskins simply cannot go into 2015 with the same questions they asked in '13 and '14.
Hey, it's understandable -- new staff, new schemes, etc. A favorable October schedule (three of four at home, all against teams that missed the playoffs last season) provides a chance to fast-forward the maturation process. Otherwise, Whisenhunt can start planning for next year.
New coach, maybe a new GM, and once again it is hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel in Oakland. Because of an offseason plan to add a few veterans, this is a rebuilding team that has not started actually rebuilding yet.
The Jaguars probably are not bad enough to threaten 0-16. Of course, before the season, everyone assumed that the Jaguars probably would improve as a team and that their defense probably would lead the way, so ...